A wide variety of manmade and naturally occurring air pollutants are known to cause cancer. Diverse exposures such as tobacco smoke, radionuclides (radon), chemicals (benzene, mustard gas, and volatile organic compounds), fibers (asbestos), and metals and metalloids (chromium, nickel, and arsenic) have long been classified as carcinogenic to humans. Historically, these classifications were based predominantly on high levels of exposure in occupational settings. Over the last thirty to forty years, scientific attention has focused on quantifying the adverse health effects of indoor and outdoor air pollutants at exposure levels several orders of magnitude lower than were studied initially. These include secondhand smoke, household exposure to radon, residential and environmental exposure to asbestos, soot from diesel-powered engines, ambient exposures to small particles (PM2.5), and indoor air pollution from the combustion of biomass and coal. This chapter provides an overview of recent epidemiologic studies of air pollutants and cancer.
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